Racist thugs sent to jail at long last

TWO racist thugs who were sentenced to five years in prison for a brutal racist attack on an Asian man in 2006 are finally behind bars – but only after their sentence was reduced.

John Anderson and Ryan Wickstead were found guilty of punching, kicking and stamping on Khalid Iqbal, leaving the innocent victim permanently disfigured.

The pair launched a marathon appeal against their convictions, which they lost in December, but remained free as lawyers appealed the length of their sentences.

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The five-year terms originally imposed on them were cut to 45 months by judges at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh yesterday.

Lord Eassie, sitting with Lord Hardie, said they were cutting the jail time "with some hesitation" as it "was a serious and vicious attack which was racially aggravated".

Ethnic community leaders today welcomed the move to finally jail the men despite the sentences being cut.

Anderson, 24, of Cathcart Place, Dalry, and Wickstead, 23, of Robertson Avenue, Gorgie, were released on bail in spring 2007 while they waited for an appeal.

The men served less than nine months of their five-year sentences from August 2006, after lawyers argued they should be free while the appeal was ongoing.

Jalal Chaudry, the Edinburgh and East of Scotland representative on the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "I am pleased that these two men are finally behind bars. The sentence has been reduced but the time spent outside waiting for the results of their appeal and worrying about it was no doubt difficult for them. So the 45-month sentence along with this long wait is probably the same as a five-year sentence.

"It's still a concern that two people found guilty were free for so long as they may have offended again during that time."

Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken said: "I'm pleased that this case has finally been disposed of, but I'm seriously concerned that the appeal process took such an inordinate length of time."

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Solicitor advocate John Scott, pleading for leniency at court yesterday, said Wickstead had been in no further trouble and had a new partner suffering from postnatal depression following the birth of their child seven months ago.

But, ruling that prison was inevitable, Lord Eassie said: "This was a serious and vicious attack which was racially aggravated."

The attack in May 2005 was described by the sheriff who jailed them as "an affront to civilised society". Anderson and Wickstead, along with Bradley McLennan, were found guilty of attacking Mr Iqbal in Wardlaw Street in May 2005 to his severe injury and permanent disfigurement.

McLennan, who has already served his sentence in a young offender's unit, also lost his appeal against conviction in December.

Mr Iqbal, then 23, had been walking in Gorgie with his white girlfriend when Anderson and McLennan began hurling abuse.

Joined by Wickstead, the drunken trio followed him to a flat before kicking in the common stair door and attacking the victim, leaving him lying in a pool of blood.

As they left, Anderson told Mr Iqbal's girlfriend: "Ha ha, your P*** boyfriend is dead."